Part 3 out of 3
"Why, Roy, it's about that thar robbery at Galloways t'other night,"
sputtered the sheriff, looking rather embarrassed, "we've come to the
conclusion that you know more about it than you told, and----," he dived
into a pocket and drew out an official-looking paper, "an' I got a warrant
fer your arrest."
"My arrest!" stammered Roy, "why you must be mad. What on earth do I know
"Nothin', only you happened to hev' a marked bill in your pocket t'other
day," shot out the sheriff, triumphantly. "Fanning Harding step forward.
What do you know about this?"
"Only this, that Miss Regina Mortlake after the automobile accident found
a wallet belonging to Roy Prescott in the roadway. She opened it and
discovered that it contained a marked twenty-dollar bill answering the
description of one of the bills stolen from the Galloway farm house. She
made me a witness of the find, and in line with my duty as a citizen, I
thought it best to expose the thief, and----."
Fanning stopped and turned pale as a boyish figure sprang toward him with
doubled fists. He shrank back, turning a sickly yellow.
"You contemptible sneak!" shouted Jimsy, whose fists it had been that
"Sheriff, I claim protection," said the cowardly youth, shrinking behind
"Now, no fisticuffs here," warned the sheriff, "my only duty now is to
preserve order and arrest Roy Prescott on a charge of grand larceny."
Peggy turned white and sick. The veranda floor seemed to heave up and down
like sea waves under her feet. But in the next few seconds she regained
control of herself.
"Why such a charge is absurd," she declared vehemently, "this is simply
spite on the part of our rivals in the aeroplane business."
"Don't know nuthin' about that," reiterated the sheriff, stolidly, "the
warrant has bin sworn out an' it's my duty ter execute it. Constable,
arrest that boy. Ef his foot is too bad hurt to walk, git a rig an' drive
him in ter town."
Hardscrabble, flushed and swollen with importance, stepped forward. He was
about to place his hand on Roy's shoulder, but the boy checked him.
"No need for that. Peggy, if you'll have them get out the auto, we'll
drive into town at once."
Mortlake stepped forward.
"Prescott," he said, "I hope you don't hold this against me. I----."
"I don't wish to speak to you, sir," shot out Roy, for the first time
betraying indignation, "let that be your answer."
"But I--really, I'm sorry to--Bancroft you'll listen----"
But Jimsy turned his back on the flushed, overfed man whose eyes could
not look him in the face.
"In the future please do us the honor not to speak to us," he said, his
voice vibrant with anger.
"Why, if I may ask?"
Jimsy flashed round.
"Because, if you don't pay attention to my request I'm afraid I shall be
unable to curb my desire to land both my fists in your eyes."
Mortlake drew back and turned away among his workmen. He did not speak
Before long the auto came round. In the meantime Peggy had taken upon
herself the task of consoling Miss Prescott. Poor Aunt Sallie, she took
the news very hardly. It was all Peggy could do to keep her from rushing
out upon the porch and denouncing the entire assemblage.
"That Mortlake," she cried, "I'd like to scratch his eyes out."
The proceedings in Sandy Beach before the local magistrate, Ephraim Gray,
were brief. Isaac Galloway, the farmer, told of the robbery and of his
knowledge that the marked bill was among the money. He followed this up by
relating the fact that Roy had been in the house in the afternoon and had
seen the safe.
Then came Fanning, and to the girl's astonishment, Regina Mortlake, both
of whom swore to finding the marked bill in the wallet in the road.
"Do you deny that this was your wallet?" asked the magistrate, holding up
the leather case after he had examined the marked bill.
"I do," declared Roy in a firm voice.
"What! you did not drop it?"
"I dropped it, but it is not mine," was the stout reply.
"Then what was it doing in your possession?"
"Do I have to answer that question, now?"
"It will be better to--yes."
"Well, then, I found it in the cellar of a house to which I was lured by
two men whom I am confident were employed by this hound Mortlake."
"Be careful," warned the magistrate, "Mr. Mortlake is a respected member
of this community. Your display of ill-will does you no good. As for your
story of how you found the wallet you can tell that to a jury later on. My
present duty is to hold you in bonds of $2,500 for trial."
A deep breath, like a sigh, went through the courtroom. In the midst of it
an active, upright figure stepped forward. It was Lieut. Bradbury, who had
arrived in the courtroom just in time to hear the concluding words. But he
had already been informed of the facts, for the story was on every tongue
in the village.
"I am prepared to offer that bail," he said.
But Peggy had been before him. With her mine shares she had a good bank
account and was able to offer cash security. This was accepted almost
before the young officer reached the judge's desk. Peggy thanked the
lieutenant with a look. She could not trust herself to speak.
"Of course," said the magistrate, "the fact that the defendant is under
bonds will prohibit his leaving the state. That is understood."
Mortlake nudged Fanning Harding. This was what they had cunningly
calculated on. With Roy safely bottled up in New York state, it would be
manifestly impossible for him to take part in the contests at Hampton in
Virginia. While they conversed in low, eager tones, Peggy and Lieutenant
Bradbury could be seen talking in another corner. Court had been
adjourned, but the curious crowd still lingered. Jess and Jimsy stood by
Roy, fencing off the inquisitive villagers and would-be sympathizers. The
whole thing had taken place so rapidly that they all felt dazed and
bewildered. Suddenly the thought of what his detention meant dawned upon
"We'll be out of the race for the naval contracts," he almost moaned.
It was the first sign he had shown of giving way. But Peggy was at his
side in an instant.
"No, we won't, Roy," she exclaimed, her eyes brilliant with excitement,
"I've asked Lieutenant Bradbury, and he says it's unusual, but he doesn't
see why a woman should be barred from flying in the contests. There's
nothing in the rules about it, anyway."
"Oh, Peg--gy!" gasped Jess, "you would----"
"Do anything within reason to balk that Mortlake crowd in their trickery
and deceit," declared Peggy, with flashing eyes.
"And we'll stand by you," announced Jimsy, stepping forward; "we'll go
with you to Hampton, and we'll bring home the bacon!"
The inexcusable slang went unreproved. Jimsy's enthusiasm was contagious.
"Thank you, Jimsy," said Peggy, winking to keep back the tears that would
"We'll beat them out yet. The bunch of sneaks, and it's my opinion that
Mortlake himself knows all about who robbed that safe!" cried Jimsy, not
taking the trouble to sink his voice.
He faced defiantly about and caught Mortlake's eye. It was instantly
averted, and catching Fanning by the arm he hastened from the courtroom.
"I wonder what mischief those young cubs are hatching up now?" he said, as
the two hastened off, bending their steps toward old Mr. Harding's bank.
"It doesn't make much difference," chuckled Fanning, "we've got that
contract nailed down and delivered now."
THE GATHERING OF THE MAN-BIRDS.
The aeroplanes--a dozen in all, that had been selected by various naval
"sharps" from all over the widely distributed portions of the country for
the weeding out of the best type--were quartered in a broad meadow not far
from the town of Hampton. The locality had been chosen as removed from the
reach of the ordinary run of curiosity seekers, who had flocked from all
parts of the country to be present at the first tests of aeroplanes as
actual naval adjuncts.
Sheds had been provided for the accommodation of each type. And above each
shed was the name of the aeroplane it housed, printed in small letters.
One of the first things that Mortlake and Fanning Harding proceeded to do
on their arrival at this "bivouac" was to make a tour of the row of sheds
in search of the Prescott machine. But to their joy, apparently, no shed
There were machines of dozens of other types, monoplanes, bi-planes,
machines of the helicopter type, and a few devices based on the parachute
principle. But no Prescott. The names the various machines bore were
weird: The _Sky Pilot_, the _Cloud Chaser_, the _Star Bug_, the _Moon
Mounter_, the _Aerial Auto_, the _Heavenly Harvester_, and some titles
even more far-fetched graced the sheds, so that it was small wonder that
in this maze of high-sounding names a shed at the far end of the row
bearing the obscure title of Nameless missed the scrutiny of Mortlake and
"We've beaten them to a standstill this time," said Mortlake with intense
conviction, "I feel that the _Motor Hornet_ has the contest cinched."
The _Motor Hornet_ was the name that had been bestowed on the machine
which Roy had poetically dubbed the _Silver Cobweb_.
The shed of the mysterious Nameless was the only one of the long row that
did not buzz with activity all that day, which was one assigned to
preparation for the contests of the morrow. All the other aeroplane hives
fairly radiated activity. Freakish-looking men hovered about their weird
helicopters and lovingly polished brass and tested engines. The reek of
gasolene and burning lubricants hung heavily over the field. Reporters
darted here and there followed by panting photographers bearing
elephantine cameras and bulging boxes of plates, for the metropolitan
press was "playing up" the tests which were expected to produce a definite
aerial type of machine for the United States Navy.
But even the most inquisitive of the news-getters failed to get anything
from within the mysterious realms occupied presumably by the Nameless. Its
roller-fitted double doors remained closed, and no sign of activity
appeared about it.
This was conceded on all sides to be extraordinary, but all the
speculation which was indulged in failed to elucidate the mystery.
"The Nameless is also the Ungetatable," joked one reporter as he and a
companion passed by.
But if anyone had been about late that night, long after the aviators who
had quarters at the hotels in town had quitted the field, he would have
seen three figures--two girls and a boy, steal across the field from an
auto which had driven up almost noiselessly, and unfasten the formidable
padlocks on the doors of the Nameless's dwelling place.
This done they vanished within the shed for a short time, and presently
thereafter a dark and strangely shaped form slowly emerged from the shed.
It was the _Golden Butterfly_, and the trio of young folks were, as you
have already guessed, Peggy, Jess and Jimsy. They crawled noiselessly on
board, and a few minutes later, with a soft whirring of the propellers,
the _Butterfly_ shut down for precaution's sake to half speed, sped almost
The night was a calm one. Hardly a leaf was stirring and the stars shone
like steel points in a cloudless sky. The aeroplane, after it had
attained a few hundred feet, seemed to merge into the dark background of
night sky. Unless one had known of its flight it would have taken a sharp
pair of eyes to have discerned it.
"Say, this is glorious. It's like being pirates or--or something," said
Jimsy enthusiastically, as soon as they had reached a height where they
felt they could talk without difficulty.
"It's great after being penned up all day at that hotel," agreed Peggy,
who was at the wheel, "how beautiful the stars are. Poor Roy, I wonder how
he is getting along?"
"You know he was doing splendidly when we left, and he has our telegrams
by this time," said Jess; "oh, Peggy, I'm so glad that the board of naval
aviation said you could fly the _Golden Butterfly_."
"Oh, weren't they taken aback, though, at the idea?" chuckled Jimsy; "I
thought that dignified old officer would fall out of his chair at the idea
of a girl daring to run an aeroplane. I'll bet if there'd been anything
in the rules about it, Peggy, they'd have barred you."
"I think so, too," laughed Peggy, "but, luckily, there wasn't. As Lieut.
Bradbury pointed out, it was a case of an emergency. It isn't as if I'd
tried to 'butt in,' as you say, Jimsy."
"Well, I'm sure I don't see why a girl shouldn't run an aeroplane just as
well as a boy. You certainly showed that you could, Peggy, when you raced
that train back in Nevada."
"In years to come," prophesied Peggy, "I dare say women as aviators will
be as common as men. I don't see why not. Ten years ago a woman who ran an
automobile would have been laughed at, if not insulted. But now, why lots
of women run their own cars and nobody thinks of even turning his head."
"Hear! hear!" cried Jimsy, "I declare I feel like a lone man at a
"Then conduct yourself as if you were actually in that dangerous
position," laughed Peggy.
The girl's spirits were rising now under the excitement of the night
ride. On the advice of Lieut. Bradbury the party from Sandy Beach had kept
closely to their rooms at the hotel all that day. It was at the officer's
advice, too, that their shed had been labeled the Nameless.
"If Mortlake was, as I begin to think, concerned in these attacks on you,"
the officer had said, "I think it would be advisable not to appear any
more than necessary. Let him think that you are out of the race."
Accordingly, the _Butterfly_ had been transported secretly and placed in
her shed at night. The secret had been well guarded and, as we know,
neither Mortlake nor Fanning Harding had even an inkling that the Prescott
machine was far--very far from being out of the race.
On and on through the night throbbed the _Golden Butterfly_, making fast
time. At last they decided that it was time to return. The object of the
trip, to see that all was in running order, had been accomplished. Nothing
remained to do now but to wait for the morrow and what it would bring
forth. The nature of the tests had been carefully guarded, and not one of
the contestants knew anything about what they were to be till the hour
came at which they would be announced from the judges' boat.
Suddenly, as they neared the environs of Hampton and the glare of electric
lights could be seen on the sky, Jimsy gave a cry and pointed down below.
They were flying pretty low, and in a road beneath them they could see an
automobile. Its headlights shone brightly but it had stopped. All at once
a sharp shout for help winged upward.
"Hullo!" exclaimed Jimsy, "somebody's in trouble down there. Maybe we'd
better descend. That is, if you girls aren't scared?"
"Um--well," began Jess, but Peggy interrupted her:
"Jess Bancroft, I'm ashamed of you. It's our duty to help out if we can."
"At least if it gets too hot we can always retreat," muttered Jimsy.
Under the covering of one of the lockers was a revolver. Under Peggy's
directions Jimsy found it. The next moment they were descending rapidly.
With hardly more noise than an alighting night bird, they dropped into the
lane in which the auto was stalled. As they touched ground the sound of
harsh voices caught their ears:
"Shell out now, if you don't want to be half-killed!"
"Yes, come on. Hand over your coin, or it'll be the worse for you," chimed
in another ruffianly voice.
"Good gracious!" gasped Jess, "it's a hold up!"
But now another voice came through the darkness.
"I suppose you fellows know that you are breaking the law and in danger of
imprisonment if you are caught?"
"Now, what is there that's familiar about that voice?" puzzled Peggy,
racking her brains.
"Aw, don't preach sermons to us, boss," came one of the gruff voices, "we
needs the money and we ain't particular how we gits it, see. Fork over
The sentence was never completed. There was a sudden flash and a sharp
report. The man in the automobile had defended himself apparently, for
there came the sound of a heavy body falling, and then his voice:
"I hope I haven't hurt you badly; but you brought it on yourself, as your
companion can witness."
The next instant, and just as Jimsy sprang forward from the clump of brush
at the roadside which had hitherto concealed the aero party--there came a
heavy rush of feet toward them. A dark form, running pantingly, appeared.
Jimsy, with a dexterous outward thrust of his foot, tripped the fleeing
man, who came down heavily in the center of the road and started howling
In the meantime, the occupant of the automobile had climbed down, and
detaching one of the lamps, examined the wounded man lying in the road
beyond Jimsy's capture. As the rays of his light swung to and fro they
hovered for an instant on Peggy's white, strained face leaning forward
above Jimsy's prisoner, upon whose neck the redoubtable young Bancroft was
"Miss Prescott, by all that's wonderful!" came an amazed voice.
There was no mistaking that bold, straightforward voice now. It was James
Bell, the mining magnate and their kind friend.
"Oh, Mr. Bell," cried Peggy, half hysterically, "we're so glad you've
AN UNEXPECTED MEETING.
As Mr. Bell spoke, the fellow who had apparently been shot, leaped to his
feet and was about to make off, but the Westerner's iron hand seized him
by the scruff of the neck, and brought him up "all standing."
Simultaneously, Jimsy's captive gave a wrench and a twist and would have
escaped but for Peggy.
The girl seized a small nickled wrench out of the _Golden Butterfly_. In
the dark it looked not unlike a pistol.
"You'd b-b-b-better stay w-w-w-where you are," said Peggy, in a voice
which, though rather shaky, was still courageous.
The fellow took the hint, and just then Mr. Bell came up with his capture,
who had merely been "playing possum." The two men were thoroughly cowed,
and were trembling violently.
"Don't be hard on us guv'ner," wailed one of them; "we didn't mean no
"No; it was just a little joke," protested Jimsy's prisoner, who was
standing in the rays of the detached auto light, thoroughly subdued.
"It's a joke that's liable to cost you dear," commented Mr. Bell. "Jimsy,"
he added, for by this time recognition and greetings had passed between
the mining magnate and Jess and Jimsy, "Jimsy, have you got a bit of rope
handy, my boy?"
Jimsy rummaged in the _Golden Butterfly's_ tool and supply locker and
presently unearthed a coil of fine cotton cord of stout texture. This was
speedily applied to the hands of the two men, and loose thongs placed
about their legs.
While this work was going forward Peggy had been scrutinizing the faces of
the two prisoners with a startled look. There was something very familiar
about both of them. All at once it flashed across her where she had
encountered them before. They were the two men who had held up Jess and
herself in the road to the Galloway farm that eventful afternoon on which
they had taken refuge from the storm.
She whispered to Jess her suspicions. Her chum instantly confirmed them.
Here was news indeed. After the men had been tied and placed in the
tonneau of Mr. Bell's car, Peggy called a council of war. In a few words
she told Mr. Bell of all that had happened since they had returned to the
East, and narrated the part the two prisoners had played in it.
"Good heavens, just to think I've come to the tame and effete east to
plunge into the midst of such an exciting mix-up," laughed Mr. Bell, "I
was in Roanoke seeing about the shipment of some supplies when I saw, in a
newspaper, that the contests for the naval contract were to take place
here. I had had no idea from your letters that they were so near at hand.
As I had some time to spare, I thought I'd run over to Hampton in my
machine and see how you made out."
"And we providentially happened to fly across you!" cried Jimsy. "Truth
is stranger than fiction, after all."
"But what are we to do with those two rascals now that we have caught
them?" wondered Peggy; "if we take them into Hampton and turn them over to
the authorities Mortlake will know of it and may make more trouble. I
wonder if they know much about him and his schemes. I recollect now that
I've seen them hanging about his aeroplane plant. I couldn't call to mind
then where I had seen them before, but I suppose the shock of coming upon
them so unexpectedly to-night jogged my memory."
"You say that they were hanging about Mortlake's place?" asked Mr. Bell,
in an interested tone.
"Yes, I'm sure of it," repeated Peggy; "I'm certain of it now."
"We'll soon find out," said Mr. Bell in his old determined manner. He
approached the car in which the two bound captives were still huddled.
"Now, you fellows," he said in stern voice, "you know better than I do,
most likely, what the penalty for attempted highway robbery is in the
State of Virginia."
"Oh, guv'ner, don't turn us over to the police," wailed one of the men,
none other, in fact, than our old acquaintance, Joey Eccles. His
companion, the angular and lanky Slim, remained silent.
"I want you to answer my questions truthfully," snapped out the Westerner,
"after that I'll see what I'll do with you. Now then--do you know a man
"Y-y-y-yus, guv'ner," stammered the redoubtable Joey.
"Good. You came here with him?"
"Well, what if we did?" growled the hitherto silent Slim. Paying no
attention to him Mr. Bell went on, while his young companions pressed
eagerly about him.
"What did you come for?"
Joey seemed about to speak but Slim growled something in a low tone to
him, and he was silent.
"Come, are you going to answer?" demanded Mr. Bell.
"Very well, I'll drive into Hampton and see if the Chief of Police can't
get more out of you."
The mining magnate made a step toward the car as if he were about to carry
out his threat. This was too much for Joey's composure.
"We came here with Mortlake to do a little job fer him guv'ner," he
"Oh, you did, eh? Well, what was the nature of that employment?"
"To disable one of them flying machines."
"One that belonged to the Prescott kids. Mortlake said he'd make it worth
our while--and--no, you can't stop me, Slim--and then when we couldn't
find the machine we was to bust up he turned us loose without a cent of
the money he promised us. We was broke, and----"
"And so you thought you'd replenish your pockets by holding up some
automobilist or traveller, eh? Humph, you're a nice pair."
"You ain't goin' ter give us up guv'ner? I told you the honest truth,
guv'ner. Didn't I, Slim?"
"Yep," was the grunted reply; "and now Mister What's-Yer-Name, what are
you going ter do with us?"
"I'm going to take you on a trip," was the astonishing reply.
"On a trip, guv'ner," stammered Joey, all his fears lively once more.
"Yes, on a trip."
The younger members of this strange roadside party stepped forward. As
they advanced into the glare of the detached headlight, Joey and his
companions saw them. Both men turned away and seemed much embarrassed.
"What are you going to do, Mr. Bell?" asked Peggy, eagerly. The mining
man's manner had become almost mysterious.
"My dear, little girl," said James Bell, "can you trust me?"
"Why, of course," came in a chorus.
"Well, then, you'll let me work this thing out my own way and I'll
guarantee that things will be straightened out for everybody--are you
willing to let me do this and ask no questions till the proper time?"
"Yes," came in a positive chant of assent.
"Very well, then. You fly back to your shed. I'll continue into town. You
may not see me for some time. But don't worry. I've got this job in hand
now and I'll see it through."
"We trust you absolutely," said Peggy, "and you'll trust us?"
"To the last ditch," said the Westerner vehemently, "and now as there's no
time to be lost, we'll go our respective ways. By the way, what time does
the first test come off?"
"We don't know yet; but some time before noon. It is rumored that it will
be an easy one. They'll work up to the difficult flights by degrees,"
"Good. I'd like to have all the time possible as I wish to do what I have
to do thoroughly."
With this Mr. Bell adjusted the headlight he had removed and climbed into
his car. With a wave and shouted farewell, he was off.
"Gracious, I feel as if I'd been shaken up in one of those kaleidoscopes
or whatever you call them," gasped Jess, "it all seems like part of a
"Things certainly have been happening quickly," agreed Peggy, "but I feel
more at ease now than for a long time. Mr. Bell has the case in hand,
"He'll see it through and fix it right," interposed Jimsy,
As there was nothing to be gained by lingering about the scene of their
strange encounter and stranger adventure, the party of youthful aviators
clambered back into the _Golden Butterfly_ and once more winged aloft. It
was a short dash to their shed and they reached it without incident.
Then, with hearts that felt lighter for the brisk, healthy influence of
breezy James Bell, they trudged to the small hotel at which they were
stopping, in order to avoid being seen by Mortlake and his aides till the
THE START OF THE SKY CRUISE.
"The first flight is to be to Cape Charles and return, a distance of sixty
miles, approximately," announced Jimsy the next morning. He held in his
hand a small blue folder which had been issued to all the contestants. It
contained the rules and regulations governing the first day's tests.
A hasty breakfast was followed by a quick trip to the grounds in one of
the ancient hacks that seem to swarm in Hampton. If the starting field had
been a scene of confusion the day before, it was a veritable chaos now.
Smoke and the fumes of gasolene hung like a pall above it. Through the
bluish cloud could be seen dim figures hurrying with cans of fuel or
lubricant, bags of tools and engine parts.
"Reminds me of circus day," commented Jimsy, looking about him; "hullo,
there's the _Cobweb_ out already," he exclaimed presently.
Across the field could be seen the silvery wings of the Mortlake
aeroplane. Several figures hovered about her, adjusting stays and putting
finishing touches to her complicated mechanism.
Presently a hush settled over the scene, and the party of naval officers,
detailed to superintend the start and take the times of the competing
craft, came through the crowd. They were directing their steps to an
unpainted wooden structure at one end of the field. This building was
equipped with various instruments for recording time accurately. From it
also would presently be given out the wind velocity and any other data of
interest to the aviators.
The party in full uniform swung past our three young adventurers.
Lieutenant Bradbury was among them. He bowed and was about to pass on when
he stopped and fell back.
"Now, don't get nervous, and do your best," he said to Peggy; "I'm sure
that we shall all have reason to be proud of the _Golden Butterfly_
before these tests are over."
"I hope so," rejoined Peggy; "we shall do our best, at any rate."
"I know you will, and now if you'll excuse me I must be hurrying on. The
board has an immense amount of work to do before ten o'clock, the official
The trio, left to themselves, made for the shed which bore the legend
"Nameless" above its door. Many curious eyes followed them as they paused
before it, and Jimsy inserted a key in the stout padlock. Who could the
two pretty girls in natty motor bonnets, with goggles attached, the plain,
heavy skirts and dark shirt-waists be? Speculation ran rife. There was a
regular stampede of reporters and photographers to the shed of the
Nameless. But when they arrived there, to their chagrin, they found that
their prospective victims had slipped inside and only the blank doors
Among the crowd that hastened to try to solve the mystery of the Nameless
was Fanning Harding, whose attention had been attracted by the rush of the
crowd. At his side was Regina Mortlake. They arrived just in time to hear
"It's two pretty girls and a good-looking boy. They're just kids."
Fanning and Regina exchanged glances. The girl actually turned pale.
"They are here after all," she exclaimed, "and I thought you said they
"Well, how on earth was I to know that they had hidden their machine under
that name. There are so many freak craft here that----"
"You are more of an idiot than I thought you," said the girl, impatiently;
"all our work has gone for nothing."
"No; there is time yet. If only Eccles and that other chap hadn't decamped
like that last night, we might have put them to work to-night."
"They decamped--as you call it--because your father wouldn't give them any
more money," said Regina with flashing eyes, "that was inexcusable folly.
They know too many of our secrets to allow them to wander about
"Oh, two tramps like that wouldn't have the sense to make any use of what
they know," rejoined Fanning easily, "besides----"
But Regina Mortlake's mind was busy on another tack.
"Isn't it against the rules for women or girls to drive machines in this
contest?" she asked.
"Say!" Fanning's eyes glistened, "I guess it is. Let's find out. If Peggy
Prescott is going to drive that machine we may be able to head them off
The two conspirators hastened across the field to the unpainted wooden
shack that housed the committee. A crowd surged about it asking questions
and demanding impossible things. It was some time before Fanning, elbowing
people right and left as he was, could reach the front. He scanned a
printed list of the entries for the contest hung on the wall. As he read
it he blamed himself bitterly for not looking at it the day before. Near
the bottom was the name "Nameless, entrant Miss Margaret Prescott."
Suddenly the disgruntled youth spied Lieut. Bradbury.
"A moment," he cried. As the young officer turned, Fanning, without a word
of greeting, bellowed out:
"Ain't it against the rules for a girl to drive an aeroplane in this
"Not that I am aware of," rejoined the officer. He reached over to a stack
of pink booklets.
"Here's a book of rules. Read it."
"Hold on," cried Fanning, as the officer moved off, "I want to make a
"Make your protest in writing. No verbal ones will be considered," said
the officer briefly.
"But see here----"
"I've no time to talk now, Mr. Harding. Good morning," and the officer
The crowd began to grin, and soon laughed openly. This enraged Fanning the
more. He angrily shoved his way to the outskirts where Regina was
"Well?" she said, lifting her dark eyebrows.
"Well," echoed Fanning in a surly tone, "it's no go."
"No go. What do you mean?"
"I mean that there isn't anything in the rules, apparently, to prevent a
woman or a girl driving an aeroplane if she wants to."
"Come and let's see my father," suggested the girl, presently, "he'll want
to know about this. It may mean a complete change of our plans."
"You'll have to change 'em to beat the _Golden Butterfly_," muttered
Fanning; "if only those drawings hadn't been lost we'd have had that
balancer, and it looks to me as if we might need it before we get to Cape
"The wind's freshening. Not more than a half dozen of these aeroplanes
will venture up. Bother the luck, if it wasn't for the _Golden Butterfly_,
we'd have a clean sweep."
"This is only the first day," counseled Regina; "the points scored to-day
will not count for so very much. There's plenty of time."
"Humph," grumbled Fanning, and as this conversation had brought them up to
the _Silver Cobweb_, he broke it off to communicate his intelligence
concerning the Prescott aeroplane to Mortlake, who heard it with a
A bomb shot upward and exploded, in a cloud of thick yellow smoke, in
"The half-hour signal," cried Jimsy; "everything ready?"
"As ready as it ever will be," rejoined Peggy nervously fingering a stay
The navigators of the Nameless were still inside the shed. The doors were
still closed. Peggy had decided not to risk having the machine damaged by
the crowd by bringing it out before the very last moment. As the bomb
sounded Jimsy drew out his watch. He kept it in his hand awaiting the
elapse of the preliminary half-hour.
Outside, as Fanning had prophesied, there had been a great and sweeping
reduction in the number of aeroplanes that were to start. The puffy wind
had scared most of the entrants of the freak types and only five of the
more conventional kind of aircraft were on the starting line. The _Silver
Cobweb_ was among them.
Fanning was in the driver's seat. As a passenger he carried Regina
Mortlake. She looked very stunning in her lurid aviation costume, and her
handsome face was as calm as chiseled marble. Her nervousness only
displayed itself by a constant tapping of her gauntleted fingers.
Fanning finished oiling the motor and adjusting grease cups and timers,
and straightening up, glanced nervously about him. Still no sign of the
"I guess they've got scared off by the wind," he grinned to Mortlake, who,
with the elder Harding and several machinists, stood by the side of the
"I doubt it," rejoined Mortlake; "it would take more than that to alarm
those girls. And just to think that all our trouble to out-maneuver them
has gone for nothing."
"You did a bad thing when you let Eccles and that other chap get away,"
commented Fanning; "I don't like their disappearance at all."
"Well, for one thing, they know a good deal that would make it very
awkward for us if they fell into the hands of anyone who disliked us. And
"Pshaw! You are alarming yourself over nothing. They were well paid and
they wouldn't dare to make trouble. If they told about us they'd implicate
"Just the same I don't feel easy. Hullo! there goes the second bomb. That
fellow's just going to touch it off, and----"
At the same instant the doors of the Nameless's shed were flung open.
From them emerged the glistening form of the golden-winged _Butterfly_.
Half a dozen men whom Jimsy had hired pushed the aerial craft rapidly
across the field to the starting line. So engrossed was the crowd in
watching the other machines that they hardly noticed the arrival of the
But not so Mortlake and his companions. They watched, with jaundiced eyes,
the forthcoming of their dreaded rival, and if wishes could have disabled
her, the _Golden Butterfly_ would never have flown on that day.
The echoes of the second bomb rang deafeningly.
"They're off!" yelled the crowd, as if there might have been some doubt of
Up into the puffy air winged six aeroplanes. It was a glorious sight. From
the chassis of the various air craft the airmen waved farewells to the
Flying, wing and wing, they dashed off toward where the sea lay, a deep
blue patch, beyond the shore. Presently they faded into dots and then were
blotted out altogether.
"There's a thick haze out there," said one of the officers, as the
The word ran through the crowd and created a momentary sensation. Then the
big throng dismissed the flying aeroplanes from its mind, and wandered
about the grounds gazing openmouthed at the freak types, whose inventors
were willing enough--too willing--to explain their remarkable points.
It might be a long time before the first of the homing craft would come in
sight and what was the use of worrying about them. Only in the wooden
structure housing the naval officers was there any concern displayed.
"If it's thick weather," said Lieutenant Bradbury, summing up a
discussion, "they're going to have some trouble on their hands out there."
THE WHITE PERIL.
"What's that? No, not that schooner below there--I mean that sort of
whitish drift--it looks like cotton--on the horizon?"
Jess leaned forward and addressed Jimsy.
"You've got me guessing," rejoined that slangy young person.
"No, I don't want to bother her now. She's got her hands full, I fancy."
The _Golden Butterfly_ was swinging steadily onward above a sparkling sea.
The slight haze perceptible from the land was not noticeable to the air
voyagers. Below them a four-masted schooner was tacking in the light wind.
Closer in shore lay several grim looking battleships and cruisers. In
their leaden colored "war paint" they looked menacing and bulldoggish.
Far off, a mere speck, could be seen a dim and indistinct object pointing
upward from the cape like a finger. They guessed it was the light for
which they were aiming. Peggy's last glance at the compass had confirmed
Jimsy looked about him. About a quarter of a mile off, and slightly ahead
was the _Cobweb_. The silvery aeroplane was rushing through the atmosphere
at a great rate. But profiting by Mortlake's experience, Fanning was
evidently not speeding the 'plane to its fullest capacity.
On the other side was a large red biplane flying steadily and keeping
about level with the _Golden Butterfly_. Far behind lagged a monoplane.
The other contestants had dropped out of the race. They were so manifestly
out of it that their drivers did not care to continue.
A glance at the speedometer showed Peggy's two passengers that they were
reeling off fifty-five miles an hour. The _Cobweb_ was doing slightly
"We should round the light in a few minutes now," said Jimsy scrutinizing
his watch anxiously.
"Will they report us?" asked Jess.
"Yes. There is a wireless rigged up there. The minute we round it on our
return trip word will be flashed back to the starting point."
Silently they sat counting the minutes roll by. All at once Jimsy noticed
that the air had become strangely damp and moist. He looked up. He could
not refrain a cry of astonishment as he did so. The _Golden Butterfly_ was
enveloped in a damp, steamy sort of smother. The _Cobweb_ had been blotted
out and so had the other aeroplanes.
"Fog," he exclaimed. "What a bit of bad luck."
"It's just as bad for the others," Peggy reminded him.
"Have you got your course?" asked Jess anxiously.
"Yes. Almost due east. But in this dense mist it will be hard to come
close enough to the lighthouse to be reported without the danger of
dashing into it."
"Are you going to try for it?"
"Of course," was the brief reply. Peggy slowed down the engine. The
_Golden Butterfly_ now seemed to be gliding silently through lonely
billows of white sea fog. It was an uncanny feeling. The occupants of the
machine felt a chilling sense of complete isolation.
Thanks to their barograph, however, they could judge their height above
"Good thing we've got it," commented Jimsy; "otherwise we might have a
thrilling encounter with the topmasts of some schooner."
"I only wish we had some instrument to show us where the other aeroplanes
are," said Peggy; "it's hard to hear anything in this fog."
"Maybe it will clear off," suggested Jess hopefully.
"Not unless we get some wind," opined Jimsy; "queer how quick that wind
dropped and this smother came up."
Nobody even hinted at the deadly danger they were in. But each occupant of
the _Golden Butterfly_ knew it full well. Except for the compass, they had
no way of guiding their flight, and to turn about would have been to court
disaster. There was only one thing for it, to keep on. This Peggy did,
grimly compressing her lips.
"Hark!" exclaimed Jimsy suddenly.
Far below them they could hear a mournful sound. It was wafted up to them
in fits and starts.
"A church bell," cried Jess, "we must be over land, Peggy!"
The other shook her head.
"That's a bell buoy, I guess," she said.
"I wish he'd tell us how to get out of here," joked Jimsy, rather wearily.
"Who?" asked Jess.
"That bell boy."
Never had one of Jimsy's jokes fallen so flat. He mentally resolved not to
attempt another one.
Presently he looked at his watch.
"Almost eleven," he said, "we must have passed the light by this time."
"I don't know," said Peggy helplessly; "if only the chart marked that bell
buoy--but it doesn't."
She again scrutinized the chart pinned before her on the sloping slab
designed for such purposes. But no bell buoy was marked on it as being
located anywhere near where they estimated they must be drifting.
Drifting, however, is not quite the correct word. An aeroplane cannot
drift. Its life depends upon its motion. The instant it stops or decreases
speed beyond a certain point, in that same instant it must fall to the
This fact is what made the position of the young sky cruisers particularly
dangerous. Although the gauge showed that they had plenty of gasoline, the
supply--even with the use of the auxiliary tanks--would not hold out
indefinitely. If the fog did not lift, or they did not land, sooner or
later they must face disaster. Worse still, they were--or believed they
were, navigating above the sea.
Had the _Golden Butterfly_ been fitted with pontoons like some of the Glen
Curtiss machines, this would not have been so alarming. But a descent into
the ocean would inevitably mean a speedy death by drowning.
Suddenly voices struck through the smother all about them. They seemed to
come from below.
"It's thick as pea soup, captain!"
"Aye, aye; I'll be glad when we're out of it I kin tell yer. This bay's a
bad place ter be in er fog."
"A ship," cried Jimsy. "Quick, Peggy," he almost yelled the next instant.
"Set your rising levers."
The girl swiftly manipulated the machinery that sent the _Golden
Butterfly_ on an upward course.
But it was only just in time that this maneuver was carried out. All of
them had a glimpse for an instant of the gilded ball on the main-mast
head of the vessel beneath them. For an instant Peggy's watchful eye had
been deflected from the height gauge, and she had allowed the _Golden
Butterfly_ to drop almost on the top of some coasting vessel's mast.
The danger over, they could not help laughing at the whimsical adventure.
"Just to think how utterly unconscious those fellows were of the fact that
three human beings were hovering right above them and listening to every
word of their conversation," chuckled Jimsy; "isn't it queer?"
A little while later a steamer's whistle boomed through the fog beneath
them, but as the altitude register showed five hundred feet, they did not
bother about it.
"At all events we know we're still above the water and not in danger of
colliding with any church steeples," said Jess, and she found consolation
in the thought.
"Have you any idea at all as to the direction of the light, Peggy?"
inquired Jimsy at length.
"I--I really don't know," confessed Peggy, with a gulp; "everything's
mixed up. It's so thick I can't tell anything and I'm deathly afraid of
running into the lighthouse by mistake."
"Then for goodness sake give it a wide berth," cried Jimsy; "if we keep on
cruising about for a while we'll be bound to land somewhere. Anyhow we've
got lots of gasoline, that's one comfort."
It was, indeed. In the steady hum of their powerful motor the young
aviators found consolation in that lonely ride through the billowing
fog-banks. At all events, there was no sign of a falter or skip there.
"If only we could get some wind," sighed Jess.
"Might as well wish for the moon," said Jimsy; "the air is as still as it
used to be at noon out on the desert."
"What a contrast between the Big Alkali and this!" cried Jess, half
hysterically. The strain of the white drifting fog was beginning to tell
Jimsy looked at her sharply.
"Look here, Sis," he began and was going on when a sharp cry from Peggy
arrested him. At the same instant the _Golden Butterfly_ swerved sharply,
swinging over on her beam-ends almost.
Right in front of them, for one dreadful instant, there loomed the
outlines of another aeroplane. The next instant it was gone. But the
picture of the deadly peril, its outlines exaggerated by the mist, was
photographed in the minds of every one of them.
"We must land somewhere, soon," said Peggy, in rather a faint voice; "I
don't think I could stand many shocks like that. Another inch, and----."
She did not complete the sentence. Her two listeners did not require her
to. It did not take a vivid imagination to have pictured the result of
that "other inch."
OUT OF THE CLOUDS.
Ten minutes or so later, a puff of wind blew the folds of fog apart for a
brief instant. Beneath them Peggy could see a sandy beach and some
scrubby-looking brush. Like a flash she took advantage of the momentarily
revealed opportunity. The _Golden Butterfly_, under her guidance, sank
swiftly, grounding a few seconds later into a bed of soft sand. It was
like lighting on a pillow of down, so gently had the glide to earth been
Shutting off the engine, Peggy took hold of Jimsy's outstretched arm and,
followed by Jess, she jumped lightly out upon the sand. The roar of the
surf, as the big swells rolled upon the beach was in their ears. A
wholesome, stinging tang of salt in their nostrils.
"I wonder where on earth we've landed," said Jimsy, looking about him;
"perhaps this is some enchanted land and we are to face new
perils--dragons or something."
"Well, gallant knight," laughed Jess, in the highest spirits to be back on
the firm ground again--even if it was only shifting sand--"we trust to
"And by my troth," exclaimed the mercurial Jimsy, "ye shall not be
disappointed in me fair damsels. Hullo! an adventure already. Hark!"
Through the smother a dull sound was borne to their ears. A sound that
came in muffled but rhythmic thumps. At intervals it paused, but then was
"Somebody chopping wood!" exclaimed Peggy, recognizing the sound.
"That's just what it is, if I ever wielded an axe in my life," agreed
Jimsy; "now logic tells us that an axe can't work itself. Therefore
somebody must be using it. Where there is human life there is--or ought to
be--food. How about it girls, are you hungry?"
"Hungry! I could eat anything," declared Jess.
"I'm almost as bad," laughed Peggy.
"Well," said Jimsy, "as there is no sign of the fog lifting yet awhile,
what's the matter with our starting out to find the wood-chopper and
seeing if he has anything to eat?"
"Jimsy, you're a genius," cried Jess.
"That's what all my friends tell me," rejoined the modest youth.
They set off over rough sand dunes, overgrown with coarse grass, in the
direction of the sounds of the axe. The sand was loose and their feet sank
ankle deep in it, but they plodded along pluckily.
All at once, just as if a curtain had been drawn, the outlines of a rough
shanty appeared in front of them. It was a tumble-down sort of a place,
seemingly made of driftwood and old sacks and bits of canvas. From a rusty
iron stove-pipe on top, a feeble column of blue smoke was ascending.
The noise of chopping had ceased on their approach and as they stood
hesitating a strange figure suddenly appeared round the corner of the
wretched rookery of a place. The man, who stood facing them, a startled
look in his light blue eyes, was apparently about middle age. He wore a
full beard of a golden brown color and was barefooted and hatless. His
clothes consisted of a tattered shirt and a pair of coarse canvas
"Well, shiver my toplights!" he cried as his eyes fell on the trio, "whar
under ther sun did you come from? Drop from ther clouds?"
"That's just what we did," said the debonnaire Jimsy, as the girls drew
back rather affrighted at the weird looking figure and his queer, wild way
"What's that? Don't try to fool with me young feller. I ain't as crazy as
I reckon I looks."
There was a certain dignity about the man when he spoke, that, despite
his ragged clothing and miserable habitation, was impressive.
"No, it's really so," Jimsy hastened to assure him, "we--we came in an
aeroplane, you know."
"Well, now," said the man scratching his head, "I reckon that's the first
of them contrivances to reach Lost Brig Island."
"Lost Brig Island," echoed Jess in an alarmed tone; "is this an island?"
"If the geography books still define an island as a body of land
surrounded by water, it is," rejoined the man, with a smile.
"Are we far from Cape Charles?" asked Peggy, eagerly.
"Why, no. Not more than six miles to the north. But what under ther sun
air you young folks in your fine clothes a-doin' out here?"
Peggy hastily explained, and the man said that he had seen some reference
to the coming contests in a stray paper the light-keepers had given him
the last time he passed the lighthouse in a small boat he kept.
"Is the island inhabited?" inquired Jimsy; "we'd like to get something to
eat. If there's a hotel or----."
The man of the island burst into a laugh. Not a rough guffaw, but a laugh
of genuine amusement.
"I guess I'm the only hotel keeper on the island," he said, "and my guests
is sea gulls and once in a while a turtle. But if you don't mind eating
some fish and potatoes, you're welcome to what I have."
"I'm sure that's awfully good of you," said Peggy, warmly, "and we love
"Well, come on in and sit down. This fog won't last forever. I was
chopping wood to get dinner when I heard you coming over the sands. I
don't often have visitors so you'll have to rough it."
So saying, the strange, lone island dweller led them into his hut. It was
rough inside but scrupulously clean. Some attempts had been made to
beautify it by hanging up on the walls shells and curiosities of the
beach. Here and there, too, were panels of rare woods, which the
island-dweller explained had come from the cabins of wrecked ships. A big
cat, his only companion, lay beside the fire and blinked at the visitors,
as if they were an everyday occurrence.
Chairs, fashioned out of barrels and boxes, stood about, some of them
cushioned after a fashion, with sacking stuffed with dried sea weed.
"Sit down," said their host hospitably, "ain't much to boast of in the way
of furniture, but it's the best I can do. Can't expect to find a Waldorf
Hotel on Lost Brig Island."
"You have been in New York, then?" exclaimed Peggy, struck by the
The man's face underwent a transformation.
"Once, many years ago," he said, "but I never like to talk about it."
"Why not?" blundered the tactless Jimsy.
"Because a wrong--a very great wrong--was done to me there," said the man
Without another word he rose and left the hut. None of the visitors dared
to speak to him, so black had his face grown at the recollections called
up by Peggy's unlucky remark.
After an absence of some moments he came back. He carried a string of
cleaned fish in one hand and a tin measure of potatoes in the other. In
the interval that had elapsed he seemed to have recovered his equanimity.
"Well, here's dinner," he announced in a cheery voice, "it ain't much to
boast of, but hunger's the best sauce."
Sitting on an upturned box he started to peel potatoes, and presently put
them on the fire in a rough iron pot. When they were almost done, a fact
which he ascertained by prodding them with a clean sliver of wood, he set
the fish in a frying pan or "spider," and the appetizing aroma of the meal
presently filled the lowly hut.
On a table formed of big planks, once the hull of some wrecked schooner,
laid on rough trestles, they ate, what Peggy afterward declared, was one
of the most enjoyable dinners of her life. Their host had at one time of
his life been a sailor it would seem. At any rate, he had a fund of
anecdote of the sea and its perils that held them enthralled.
Every now and again, through the open door, Peggy cast a glance outside.
But the fog still hung thick. Suddenly, in the midst of their meal,
footsteps sounded and voices came to their ears.
"Hullo, more visitors!" exclaimed the man of the island starting to his
feet, "this is a day of events with a vengeance. Who can be coming now?"
The footsteps had drawn close now and a voice could be heard saying:
"What a rickety, tumble-down old place. I wonder what kind of savage lives
"Fanning Harding!" gasped Peggy, as another voice struck in. A voice she
instantly knew as Regina Mortlake's.
[Illustration: The next minute the man of the island ushered in his two
"Oh, what a dreadful place. Why won't this miserable fog lift. I'll be
dead before we get back to the hotel."
The man of the island had hastened hospitably out to welcome the
Peggy, Jess and Jimsy exchanged glances. The prospect of spending the
afternoon marooned on an island with Fanning Harding and Regina Mortlake,
was not alluring. But there was no escape. The next minute the man of the
island ushered in his two new guests.
"What, you here?" said Fanning in an ungracious tone, while Regina
Mortlake, more skilled at disguising her feelings, exclaimed:
"Oh, how perfectly wonderful that we should both have landed on the same
"It wasn't from choice," grumbled Fanning in a perfectly audible tone.
Jimsy flushed a dark, dangerous flush.
"Jess, tell me not to punch that chap," he muttered to his sister.
"I certainly do tell you not to," whispered Jess emphatically.
The man of the island looked on wonderingly.
"Did you come in an aeroplane, too?" he asked Fanning in the manner of a
man prepared to hear any marvels.
"Yes. We had the race won, too. But this fog has delayed us. What can you
give us to eat. I can pay for it," said Fanning in a loud, rude tone.
"I don't take pay," said the hut-dweller in a quiet tone that ought to
have caused Fanning to redden with shame, "but if you are hungry I can
cook some more fish. There are plenty of potatoes left."
"They'll be very nice, I'm sure," Regina had the grace to say. But Fanning
mumbled something about "pauper's food."
But nevertheless he ate as heartily as Jimsy himself, when the food was
put on the rough table. It was hard work trying to be pleasant to the two
young people who had so unexpectedly come into their midst, and the
conversation languished and went on by fits and starts.
"Hullo, the fog's lifting," cried Fanning suddenly; "I'm off. Come on
The girl rose, and as she did so the trio from the Prescott machine
noticed the island dweller's eyes fixed on her in a curious way.
"Pardon me," he said, "but is your name Regina?"
The girl looked at him in a half-startled way, while Peggy, as she said
afterward, felt as if she was watching a drama.
"Yes," she said; "why?"
"Because," said the island dweller slowly, "because I once knew someone
called Regina who was very dear to me."
"Come on," called Fanning from outside, "we've got to win this race back."
The girl lingered hesitatingly an instant and the next moment was gone.
"The fog is lifting," said Peggy, "we must be going, too. Come along Jess.
Come on, Jimsy, we don't want to let the Mortlake craft beat us at the
"What name was that you just mentioned?" asked the man of the island,
quickly. He was bending forward eagerly, as if to catch the answer.
"Do you mean Mortlake?"
"Yes, that's the name. What of him? Do you know him?"
The man's eyes gleamed brightly. He seemed to be much excited. Peggy
answered him calmly, although she felt as if some sort of a life tragedy
was working out to swift conclusion.
"Of course, Mr. Eugene Mortlake is the man who is manufacturing the
Mortlake aeroplane. He is our chief rival. That's the reason we must hurry
"Why, did they?" the man nodded his head in the direction in which Fanning
and Regina had vanished, "did they come in a Mortlake aeroplane?"
"Yes," said Peggy, "didn't you know? That girl is Mr. Mortlake's
daughter, Regina Mortlake."
The man gave a terrible cry and reeled backward. Jimsy stepped forward
quickly and caught him. For an instant they thought their host was going
to swoon. But he quickly recovered.
"Good heavens," he cried, "Eugene Mortlake is here. Close at hand?"
"He is in Hampton--why?"
"I must see him as soon as possible. No, I can explain nothing now. But I
must see him."
The man's manner showed that he was terribly in earnest. He seemed almost
carried away by excitement. Outside came suddenly a whirring sound.
"Fanning is starting his engine," exclaimed Jimsy; "we must hurry."
"Will you do something for me--will you aid a miserable outcast to right a
great wrong?" pleaded the ragged man who faced them.
"What can we do for you?" asked Jimsy.
"Take me back to Hampton in your aeroplane. I must see Mortlake at once.
It is imperative I tell you. See, I am not poor, although I appear so."
In two strides the man had crossed the room and lifting a board in the
floor he drew forth bag after bag. The seams of some of them were rotten.
Under the sudden strain they broke and streams of gold coin trickled out
upon the floor.
"Years ago when I was first an exile here," said the man, "a Spanish ship
came ashore one stormy night. Not a soul of her crew was saved. I found
this money in the wreck. I will give you half of it if you will take me to
Hampton with you. The other half I must keep till--till I learn from
Mortlake's lips the secret he holds."
"Put your money back," said Jimsy quietly after a telegraphic exchange of
looks with Peggy, "we'll take you to Hampton; but hurry!"
Fifteen minutes later a golden-hued aeroplane flashed past the Cape
Charles light. The announcer posted there, instantly sent in a wireless
flash to Hampton.
"Number Six has just passed. Two minutes behind Number Five (The _Silver
Cobweb_), four persons on board."
Mortlake was among the crowd that read the bulletin which was instantly
posted upon the field outside Hampton.
"I wonder who the fourth can be?" he thought, little guessing that through
the air fate was winging its way toward him.
"Anyway," he added to himself the next instant, "the _Mortlake_ is
leading. Now if only----"
But what was that roar, at first a sullen boom, gradually deepening into
the excited skirling cheers of a vast throng.
Mortlake looked round, startled. Out of the distance two tiny dots,
momentarily growing larger, like homing birds, had come into view. Hark!
What was that the crowd were shouting? Those with field glasses threw the
cry out first, and then came a mighty roar, as it was caught up by
hundreds of throats.
"The Nameless! The Nameless wins!"
Mortlake paled, and caught at a post erected to hold up a telephone line.
He gazed at the oncoming aeroplanes. There were three of them now, but one
was far behind, laboring slowly. But the first was unquestionably the
_Golden Butterfly_. He could catch the yellow glint of her wings. And that
second craft--its silvery sheen betrayed it--was the Mortlake _Cobweb_, as
Roy had called it.
"Come on! Come on!" shouted Mortlake, uselessly as he knew, "what's the
matter with you?"
But alas, the _Cobweb_ didn't "come on." Some three or four minutes after
the _Golden Butterfly_ had alighted and been swallowed up in a surging,
yelling throng of enthusiasm-crazed aero fans, the _Cobweb_ fluttered
wearily to the ground, unnoticed almost amid the excitement over the
_Golden Butterfly's_ feat.
Mortlake raged, old Mr. Harding almost wept, and Fanning sulkily explained
that it wasn't his fault, the cylinders having overheated again. But not
all of this could wipe out those figures that had just been put up on the
board, which proclaimed a victory for the Prescott aeroplane by a margin
of three and twenty-one hundredths minutes!
FRIENDS AND FOES--CONCLUSION.
The winning of the "Sky Cruise," as the newspapers had dubbed it, was the
talk of Hampton that night. Not a small part of the zest with which it was
discussed was caused by the fact that a young girl had driven the machine
through its daring dash. The wires from New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia,
Boston and Richmond were kept hot with instructions from editors to their
representatives demanding interviews with the Girl Aviators. But to the
chagrin of the newspaper representatives, after seeing their machine
housed, the party had vanished.
This, on investigation, was not as mysterious as it had at first appeared.
There was a small door in the back of the Nameless's shed, and at this
door there had been waiting, for some moments before the conclusion of the
race, a big automobile. In it were seated a bronzed man, with broad
shoulders, and an alert, wideawake expression, and a boy, whose foot was
propped up on an extemporized contrivance affixed to the seat.
While the crowd had hovered about the front of the shed, awaiting the
reappearance of the girl aviator, whose feat had caused such a furore,
this boy had limped from the machine, assisted by his stalwart companion,
and had entered the shed by the rear door. It would have astonished the
crowd, and delighted the reporters in search of a story, if they could
have seen Peggy rush at the youth, and with a wild cry of:
"Roy! You darling!" throw her arms about his neck.
Mr. Bell, for he was the stalwart personage, stood aside with a look of
warm satisfaction, as Peggy's turn over, Jess and Jimsy came forward. What
a joyous reunion that was, I will leave you to imagine. Then came Mr.
Bell's story of his telegram to Sandy Beach to the judge, who was a
friend of his. The message had announced that he had obtained complete
confessions from both Joey Eccles and the unsavory Slim. Roy's release
from bail and suspicion at once followed.
Eccles had owned up to his part in the mischief that had been wrought
against the young Prescotts. Frankly, and without reserve, he had sworn to
a statement before a local attorney, in which he admitted losing the bill
with the mark upon it, on the night he had aided in decoying Roy to the
old house. His assistant had been a cast off workman of the Mortlake
plant, of whose whereabouts Joey said he was now ignorant.
Then had come Slim's turn. Sullenly, but with the alternative of prison
staring him in the face, he had admitted to impersonating the foreign spy.
The part of Roy on that eventful night had been played by:
"Guess whom?" said Mr. Bell, looking round.
They all shook their heads.
"I'll tell you about that part of it later," said Mr. Bell. "There are
still one or two things to be cleared up in that connection. But," he
continued, "Palmer confessed that it was Mortlake who robbed the
farm-house safe, the object being, of course, not so much the money, as a
chance to put Roy out of the race contest. It has been a record of vile
plotting all the way through," said the Westerner warmly, "but the toils
are closing in about Mortlake & Co. Of course, my first step was to take
the fellows before an attorney--luckily I knew one in Hampton, and he, as
it happened, was a friend of the Sandy Beach judge. We had to move
quickly, but, thanks to the telegraph wire and fast trains, I got Roy
released from bail and suspicion, and here in time to greet you."
They could only look their gratitude. Just as the strain was becoming
almost too taut, Mr. Bell, who had noticed it, broke the tension.
"Let's sneak out of the back door," he said, "and all go to some quiet
place to dine. Hullo, who's this?" he exclaimed, as the tattered figure of
the man of the island appeared.
"I am what is left of Budd Pierce, Jim Bell," said the man, in his queer,
"Budd Pierce!" exclaimed the mining man, falling back a step. "No--but,
yes, now I look again--it is. But, man, what has happened to you? What are
you doing here?"
"It's a long story," said the ragged man, while the younger members of the
party looked on in astonishment, "but I can tell you that Gene Mortlake
has reached the end of his tether. I've heard all you said about him, and
my interest in him you know already."
"I know that you were swindled out of your fortune by some man years ago,
and then disappeared," said Mr. Bell. "But I had forgotten the name of the
"It was Eugene Mortlake," said the man of the island slowly. "After I knew
I was ruined, I fled down here, where I was raised, and became a recluse
on that island. It was cowardly of me, I know, but from now on I am going
to lead a different life."
"You have found yourself!" cried James Bell, gleefully clasping the
other's thin, worn hand.
"I have found something dearer to me," was the quiet reply; "but come, let
us be going. I have much that is strange to tell you."
With wondering looks, the young aviators--Roy leaning on Peggy's devoted
arm--followed James Bell and the man from Lost Brig Island out of the
* * * * *
In his suite of rooms at the Hotel Hampton, the best hotel in the place,
Eugene Mortlake sat opposite old Mr. Harding. His brow was furrowed, and
little wrinkles that had not been there earlier in the day, appeared at
the corners of his eyes. Old Mr. Harding seemed to be trying to cheer him
up. In another corner of the room, sullen and depressed, Fanning Harding
was standing puffing a cigarette and filling the atmosphere with its
"All is not lost yet, Mortlake, hey, hey, hey?" said the old man, laying a
skinny, claw-like hand on the other's arm. "Why, to-night we'll put into
execution a plan that will permanently put these young Prescotts out of
it. Fanning knows what I mean. Hey?"
He glanced up at his ill-favored son.
"I know fast enough," said that young hopeful, "but it's a risky matter.
Why don't you get somebody else to do it?"
"Pshaw! It's only filing off a padlock and then smashing a few of the
motor parts," said the old man, in as calm a tone as if he were proposing
a constitutional walk, "that's soon done, hey?"
A sharp knock at the door interrupted any reply Fanning might have been
about to make.
"Come in," snarled Mortlake. "It's the mail, I suppose," he said, turning
to old Mr. Harding, but, to his surprise and consternation, the opened
door revealed Roy Prescott. Close behind him came Mr. Bell and Peggy, with
Jimsy and Jess bringing up the rear.
"To what am I indebted for the pleasure of this visit?" asked Mortlake,
glowering at the newcomers, as they filed in, and Mr. Bell closed the door
behind them. "Why didn't you send up your cards, and I'd have torn them up
and thrown them out of the window."
"Just what I thought you'd do, so we came up ourselves," said Mr. Bell
cheerily. "Now, look here, Mortlake--no, sit down. I've come up here to
right a wrong. You've tried to do all in your power to injure these young
people, whose only fault is that they have built a better aeroplane than
you have. It's their turn now, and you've got to grin and bear it."
Mortlake's jaw dropped. His old bullying manner was gone now. Old Man
Harding cackled inanely, but said nothing. Only his long, lean fingers
drummed on the table. Fanning turned a pasty yellow. He had some idea of
what was to come. His eyes fell to the floor, as if seeking some loophole
of escape there.
"Well," growled Mortlake, "what have you got to say to me?"
"Not much," snapped the mining man, "but I wish to read you something."
He drew from his pocket a paper.
"This is the confession of Joey Eccles," he said quietly. "I've another by
Mortlake leaped up and sprang toward the Westerner, but Mr. Bell held up
"Don't try to destroy them," he said. "They are only copies. The originals
are by this time in the hands of the authorities at Sandy Beach."
Mortlake sank back with staring eyes and white cheeks.
"What do you want me to do?" he gasped.
"Listen to these confessions and then sign your name to them, signifying
your belief that they are true documents."
"And if not?"
"Well, if not," said Mr. Bell, measuring his words, "do you recollect that
wild-cat gold mine scheme you were interested in more years ago than
you'll care to remember?"
Mortlake seemed to shrivel. But he flared up in a last blaze of defiance.
"You can't scare me by rattling old bones," he said, "What do you know
For reply, Mr. Bell stepped to the door.
"Mr. Budd," he called softly, and in response the man of Lost Brig Island,
but now dressed and barbered into civilization appeared.
"Pierce Budd!" gasped Mortlake.
"Yes, Pierce Budd, whom you ruined," said Mr. Bell. "But for my
persuasions, he would have sought to wipe out his wrongs in personal
violence. But you needn't fear him now," as Mortlake looked round with
hunted eyes; "that is, if you sign."
"I'll sign," gasped out the trapped man. He reached for an inkstand. "Give
them to me."
"I'll read them first," said the mining man, and then, in slow, measured
tones, he read out the contents of the convicting documents. As he
concluded, Mortlake seemed about to collapse. But he took the papers with
a trembling hand, and wrote:
"All this is true.--Eugene Mortlake."
"Good," said Mr. Bell. "Now your future fate is in the hands of these
young people. Pierce Budd has forgiven you, though it has been a struggle
to do so. But I have one surprise left for you all," said Mr. Bell,
stepping to the door. "Regina," he called softly.
In reply, the dark-eyed girl, in a sheer dress of soft, clinging stuff,
glided into the room. She slipped straight to the side of the outcast
Pierce Budd, and stood there, holding his hand. Peggy looking at her in
amazement, saw that the hard, defiant look had vanished from the girl's
face, and that its place had been taken by an expression of supreme
happiness and peace.
"Tell them about it," said Mr. Bell.
"No. She has not yet recovered from the shock of the discovery," said
Pierce Budd softly. "Let me do it. When Mortlake ruined me, and I fled
from my former surroundings," he said, "I left behind me a baby girl.
Mrs. Mortlake, a good woman if ever there was one, took care of that
child. All this I have only just learned. She grew up with the Mortlake's,
and when that man's wife died he did the only good thing I've ever heard
of him doing--he took care of her and brought her up as his daughter.
To-day in the hut you saw me looking at her closely. It was because I
thought I recognized a bit of jewelry--a tiny gold locket she wore. It
contained the picture of her mother, who died soon after her birth. When I
heard her name was Regina, and on the top of that heard you mention the
name of Mortlake, I knew that fate, in its strange whirligig, had brought
my daughter back to me."
"To-night, with Mr. Bell, I sought her, and she has consented to forgive
me for my years of neglect. The rest of my life will be spent in atoning
for the past. That is all."
His voice broke, and Regina--a different Regina from the old defiant one,
gazed up at him tenderly.
"So," said Mortlake, "I'm left alone at last, eh? Regina, haven't you a
word for me? Won't you forgive me for deceiving you about your father all
"Of course I forgive, freely and wholly," said the girl, stepping toward
him, "but it is hard to forget."
Very tenderly, Mortlake raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. Then he
drew himself erect.
"What do you want to do with me?" he said defiantly. "I've confessed
everything. Why don't you call the police?"
"Because we want you to have a chance to be a better man," said Mr. Bell.
"The past is over and done with. The future lies before you. You can make
it what you will--bad or good, we shall not interfere with you."
Mortlake looked at them unsteadily. Then his voice broke and he stepped
quickly toward Budd. The recluse of Lost Brig Island extended his lean
palm and met the other's outstretched hand half way.
"I bear no grudge, Mortlake," he said. "You will always be welcome at our
home--Regina's and mine."
"Oh, yes--always," cried the girl, with a catch in her voice.
"Thank you," said Mortlake simply. "I don't--I don't dare trust myself to,
speak now; to-morrow, perhaps----"
He strode abruptly through the door and was gone.
Old Mr. Harding arose to his feet.
"After this affecting tableau, is there anything you wish to say to me,
hey?" he grated out.
"Nothing, sir," said Mr. Bell, turning his back upon the wizened old
financier. "I have seen to it that the money taken from them has been
returned to the Galloways."
"Then, I'll bid you good-night, too, since you seem to have taken
possession of these rooms. Come, Fanning."
Without a word, Fanning shuffled across the room and reached his parent's
side. Not till they were both at the door did he speak. Then, with a
malevolent look backward, he paused.
"Roy Prescott," he said, "you've always beaten me out--at school, at
college, and twice since we've both lived in Sandy Beach. There'll be a
third time, and you can bet that I'll not forget the injury you've done
me. Good night."
He was gone, a sinister sneer still curling his lip.
"Well," said Mr. Bell, looking round him with a smile, "who says that all
the adventure and excitement is in the West?"
"Not the Girl Aviators, certainly," laughed Peggy, stealing a look at
Regina. The girl colored, and then, after a visible effort, she spoke.
"I want to say something," she said, and stopped. Her father bent on her
an encouraging look. Bravely she nerved herself, and went on.
"It--it was I who dressed up like you that night, Roy Prescott, and--and
I'm awfully sorry."
"Oh, that's all right," said Roy uneasily, and then, "say, you can run
like a deer!"
In the laugh which followed they left the room and adjourned to a jolly
supper, at which, who should walk in but Aunt Sally Prescott and Mr. and
Mrs. Bancroft. They had been reached by telegraph early that morning, and
had started on the next train to Roy. How the hours flew! It was almost
midnight before they knew it. In the midst of the feast, a waiter brought
in a message to Mr. Bell. The mining man excused himself and left the room
for a short time. When he returned he was smiling.
"I've just signed on two new workmen for the mine," he said, "and I think
they'll make good."
"Who are they?" asked Roy.
"Well, one answers to the name of Eccles. The other was, on one occasion,
a foreign spy, but he bears the very American name of Palmer. They leave
for the West to-night."
How the Prescott aeroplane, under Roy's management, captured the coveted
highest number of marks for proficiency, and how a sensation was caused by
the sudden withdrawal of the Mortlake aeroplanes from the naval contest,
all my readers are familiar with through the columns of the daily press.
The paper, though, didn't print anything about an offer made by Pierce
Budd to Eugene Mortlake to finance the _Cobweb_ type of machine. Needless
to say, the offer was not accepted. Mortlake, a changed man, is now
building and selling aeroplanes in a far eastern principality, and they
are good ones, too. No letters are more welcome than those that arrive
occasionally from him and are delivered at Pierce Budd's home in New York.
Under Lieutenant Bradbury's kindly auspices, Roy instructed a class of
young seamen in the management of the Prescott type of aeroplane, which
has become the official aero scout of the United States Navy. From time to
time improvements are added.
But, as the young officer says:
"It was really the Girl Aviators' Sky Cruise, that won out for the
And here, though only for a brief period, we must bid _au revoir_ to our
young friends. But we shall renew our acquaintance with them, and form
some new friends, in the next volume of this series. This book will be
replete with adventures encountered in the pursuance of the wonderful new
science of aviation, as yet in its infancy. In the clouds and on the solid
earth, the Girl Aviators are destined to have some more eventful times.
What these are to be must be saved for the telling in--The Girl Aviator's